Property Australia

500 Women in Property pivots


Coffee roulette, complimentary livestream events and conversation starters for Zoom catchups are among the ideas helping our 500 Women in Property cohort stay connected.

The Property Council has pivoted the popular 500 Women in Property program to an online format and is exploring new ways to grow networks, says Property Council’s chief operating officer, Kathy Mac Dermott.

“Our diversity committees are the powerhouse of the Property Council's work to build a diverse and inclusive industry. Their incredible energy in challenging times continues to shape our agenda and drive our commitment to diversity,” Mac Dermott says.

The Property Council’s state diversity committees have been busy developing a raft of resources, from a five-point plan to stay connected to conversation starters for Zoom catch-ups. Livestream events and Academy courses have been a big hit, and a podcast series featuring female leaders is in the pipeline.

Coffee roulette is being rolled out over the coming weeks, with randomly matched participants encouraged to meet virtually.

“It would not have been possible to pivot 500 Women in Property without the support of our national program sponsor, The GPT Group,” Mac Dermott adds.


A strategic pivot pays off

Colliers’ Hayley Bushell is excited about the evolution of 500 Women in Property and is “thrilled” that the program will be extended to December 2021.

“I applied to be a part of 500 Women in Property in 2018, and due to such an overwhelming response, I couldn’t get in until 2020,” says Bushell, an associate director of marketing and communications in Colliers’ industrial division.

“I wasn’t sure how the Property Council would pivot a program online when so much of it is based on networking, but it’s been a seamless experience.”

Bushell says she and mentor Daisy Ford, AMP Capital’s general manager of marketing for office and logistics, embraced monthly morning coffee catchups in a virtual environment.

“We use the conversation cards and that has created a formal structure for feedback and guidance. I was expecting to feel a bit disconnected, but I’ve found Daisy is only a phone call away and its actually been easier than a physical meeting. Chats have rolled around like clockwork.”

Ford says meeting for an hour each month has created a “rhythm and a structure that has been really important to us”. But as restrictions ease, the duo is planning to introduce walking meetings “because we are craving face to face connection”.

The program benefits both participant and sponsor, Ford adds. “I gain exposure to fresh ideas and it forces me to think outside the square which is wonderfully challenging.”

While the virtual connections have been richly rewarding, both Bushell and Ford are looking forward to the reintroduction of real world events. “I am really looking forward to gaining insight into how the rest of the participants are moving through the program,” Ford says.

Bushell feels fortunate to have “double the length of time with people I really respect”.

“There are so many talented women in our industry, and by pivoting so quickly online we haven’t wasted the time we’ve been away from each other.”


Lift, change and connect

Heidi Knights, an assistant development manager at Lendlease, has been reflecting on how 500 Women in Property has evolved this year.

“So many of the 500 Women in Property participants are looking to be future leaders. Being adaptable and agile is an essential leadership skill. COVID-19 has gifted this lesson to us.”

Knights is meeting monthly with her sponsor, Seamus McCartney, Lendlease’s head of creative strategy, place and urban insights. “We are probably making more of a commitment because we are socially distant,” she says.

The livestream events “have kept the industry connected”, and the episode featuring Lendlease’s Kylie Rampa was personal favourite.

“Many of us may not normally have the opportunity to attend those kinds of events in person, so it’s a real privilege to learn from established industry leaders.”

Knights has been inspired to innovate in her own backyard, and recently initiated a professional development session with her Lendlease ‘500 Women’ cohort over Microsoft Teams.

“I have also set my own stretch target and am reaching out to 500 Women in Property participants that I don’t know to chat to them. It’s not something I would have necessarily done before,” she adds.

“COVID-19 has been tough but there are also a lot of opportunities. We’ll be the only cohort with a two-year extended program and a chance to try new ways of connecting. This moment in time is an opportunity to lift, change and connect.”

The 500 Women in Property coffee roulette sessions are being rolled out this week.